Anime Reporter takes a little bit of a detour from the world of anime to bring you our verdict on Ashens And The Quest For The Game Child.
Stuart Ashen is best known for his YouTube channel, on which he reviews obscure toys and games, usually cheaper knock-offs of existing products. His videos emphasise the humour value in these products and he has a substantial fan-base. Stuart’s past as a collector and admirer of “worthless tat” has always been marred by his greatest loss. Of all of the useless and cheap toys and games in his collection, he has never been able to get his hands on the incredibly rare and utterly useless GameChild, a handheld video game console of no particular gender. Inspired by a mysterious note and the urgings of an old friend, Geoff (played by Dan Tomlinson), the two set off on a mission, a journey, but definitely not a “quest”, to once and for all find the elusive piece of junk.
Ashen himself helped write the movie and his presence is noticeable, with tips of the hat and winks to such pop culture classics as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, Batman and Robin and even The Goonies.
Unfortunately, most of these references are overwhelmingly clumsy and their delivery is often cringe-worthy. Ashen himself is well used to working on camera but his acting abilities are definitely lacking. There are elements of dry British wit in some of the jokes but they wilt under the pressure of delivery. There are several jokes which could have hit home, but Ashen’s delivery is that of someone who has memorised his own jokes so often that even he is bored of hearing them. The same is lamentably true for most of the cast.
Robert Llewellyn (best known as Kryten from the British sitcom Red Dwarf) and Warwick Davis (known as Professor Flitwick in the Harry Potter movies) are notable exceptions and both perform their small roles quite admirably. It’s actually a little unfortunate that Warwick’s presence in the film was hyped to the extent that he introduces one of the film’s trailers and even appears on the cover of the DVD/Bluray because his role, such as it is, would have worked much better as a pleasant surprise to viewers.
The clear standout performance for the film comes from Dan Tomlinson. Tomlinson’s jokes certainly do fall flat quite often but when they hit home, they are some of the only giggle, if not quite laugh-out-loud moments of the film and his ratio of laugh:cringe is certainly well above Ashen’s. Tomlinson more often than not gets in his own way with overacting that steals attention away from his actual jokes, but when he lets himself calm down a little, he’s capable enough to become the best thing about the film. Notable mention should also be given to PJ Ligouri who plays “The Guide” and Louis Waymouth and Jamie Lennox who play Batman and Robin caricatures, Knighthood and Decoy, respectively. Again, these performances have quite a few weak moments but the three men handle their roles well and some of Knighthood and Decoy’s banter seems more worthy of a film than the rest of the entire plot.
The biggest flaw with this film is that it tries very hard to pay tribute to films over the last few decades but hasn’t really stopped to see if someone else has done the same things before, but much better. Jokes and even crucial plotpoints are set up with incredibly heavy hands and many viewers will find themselves frustrated waiting for things to finally get to the point. There is a fine line with parody where it can be hard to tell if something is genuinely clumsy and predictable or simply trying to mock something which is clumsy and predictable. This film is often doing both of these things simultaneously. This is a film which could have been much much funnier if it had only made an attempt to be slightly surprising.
Ultimately, it is perhaps very fitting that Stuart Ashen is a man whose life is dedicated to cheap knock-offs of iconic products. While this film was certainly intended to be a spoof of great adventure films and franchises, it ends up feeling much more like a cheap knock-off of the decent comedy it could have been.
Costumes vary in quality. The first couple of appearances of terrible fake moustaches seem cheap and distracting. It soon becomes clear however, that these are probably intentional as bad moustaches become something of a trend.
This film proudly saunters into the category of “So bad it’s good”, though many may feel that it continues walking back into simply “bad” territory once more. Ashens’ YouTube channel has many followers who appreciate his humour and this film will undoubtedly find a following of some description, but it won’t appeal to everyone.
Ashens And The Quest For The GameChild is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Monday 14th July from Anchor Bay Entertainment. A version of the film is already in existence on YouTube, but the DVD/Blu-ray releases include footage not available on the YouTube version as well as a host of extras including behind the scenes footage and interviews, though each of these extras is admittedly quite short.
42% – “Misses the Mark”– Ashens A.T.Q.F.T.G.C. lacks the subtlety and wit it needs to be a successful parody and probably belongs in the attic with the slightly vintage G.I. Jims and ThunderDogs action figures.